Tag Archives: photography

BOOK REVIEW: Joe McNally’s Sketching Light

Sketching Light cover

Sketching Light: An Illustrated Tour of the Possibilities of Flash is the third of photographer Joe McNally’s books that I’ve reviewed, and I never really grow tired of reading his stories. The quality of his storytelling and the depth of knowledge he has gained from years in the field is what makes his books so interesting, and Sketching Light is no different.

As you can gather from the title, Sketching Light focuses on using flash in photography and there are a variety of stories about the topic. Unlike The Art of Photographic Lighting, which I just reviewed, Joe’s chapters are full of text, intriguing and imaginative photography, and a lot of storytelling. All this is on top of technical details supported by first-hand field experience. The book really is an awesome read, and I’d recommend it to any professional photographer. (Amateurs and prosumers will enjoy it too, but Joe’s writing as a professional and some material just doesn’t apply to what they are shooting.)

I was also inspired by some of Sketching Light that did not really pertain to lighting. Joe works with a lot of models and subjects and he writes quite a bit about working with people. There’s also a section, “How Do You Get Fired from LIFE?”, that I was particularly interested in because I grew up reading LIFE magazine in the 1990s and surely saw Joe’s work without knowing it. He doesn’t even mention lighting in this section; instead, the section is about the actual value of accolades and how temporary the perfect gig can be.

There’s a couple criticisms I want to make about Sketching Light. Joe has published three highly-regarded books now, and I think the content is starting to sound the same. The previous book, The Hot Shoe Diaries, is also about lighting and I’m not sure another book about lighting was the best idea. The content is appealing but it also seems too similar to the other two books. I’ve also noticed that Joe’s writing style is very conversational, which I usually enjoy, but it makes for longer books. Sketching Light is over 400 pages long, and I think some editing could pare that down to 350 or even 325. Some of the verbiage in Sketching Light is not necessary. I criticized Eib Eibelhaeuser for an unusually dry writing style in The Art of Photographic Lighting, but I’d say Joe McNally’s writing style could be more streamlined and direct without losing its impact.

Despite this, Sketching Light is a wonderful book and any pro photographer would do well to have it on his or her shelf. I’m putting my copy next to Joe’s other two books, which I refer to regularly.

Sketching Light: An Illustrated Tour of the Possibilities of Flash
Joe McNally
Published by New Riders
US $49.99
Rating: 9/10
Buy from Amazon.com

REVIEW: Lightroom 4 Prepares For The Future

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 has been available a few months but only in the last week Adobe has included Lightroom in Adobe Creative Cloud subscriptions, which is potentially even bigger news than the new version 4. Photographers who have purchased Creative Cloud subscriptions now get Lightroom whenever and wherever they want it, and that makes Lightroom even more relevant than before. I’ve been working with Lightroom 4 since it was released and Adobe has made some smart improvements to the application that embrace new digital technology.

I believe the most vital improvements in Lightroom 4 happen in the new adjustment brush features. Lightroom became much more useful when the adjustment brush was added a couple years ago, but Lightroom 4 lets photographers make spot adjustments to counter moiré, reduce noise or adjust white balance. The white balance adjustment is very useful and I was surprised no one thought to spot-adjust white balance before. I was so surprised I actually launched Lightroom 3 to confirm it!

Lightroom 4 white balance adjustments

Basically, the Temp and Tint sliders in the Develop module can now be adjusted within a single adjustment brush point on the photo or as a general adjustment across the photo. My color correction techniques have always emphasized correction across entire images—color casts and white balance mistakes will almost always affect everything the camera sees. However, there are a few times when multiple light sources can skew results in a part of an image. There are also many photographers today who want to be more creative with their images than just getting the color correct. These photographers will really enjoy the new controls available in Lightroom 4.

I am also really excited that Lightroom 4 now supports video formats. Prosumer cameras have been shooting video for a few years now and it’s becoming mainstream—some photographers like Vincent Laforet are experimenting with the art form while wedding and event photographers are supplementing their income shooting video as well as their usual photos. Adobe worked to make Lightroom 4 provide a complete video workflow. I don’t think Lightroom 4 provides a complete workflow—it’s missing basic features like sound editing, though Creative Cloud users will have all the software they need for video editing. But Lightroom 4 does provide easy importing and exporting to Facebook and Flickr as well as to your hard drive. I think exporting to YouTube is essential though.

Lightroom 4 does provide Quick Develop module tools for video editing, which is where workflow comes in. Photographers can change exposure, white balance and all the tone controls used for images. You can also trim clips and capture a poster frame for presenting the video. This is the extent of video editing in Lightroom 4, and I think it’s a decent enough editing suite for photographers in the field but a photographer who wants to sell his video footage should invest in Creative Cloud, CS6 Production Premium or Adobe Premiere Elements. Amateur videographers should really consider Premiere Elements, though serious photographers might want to invest in CS6 Production Premium (or, better yet, hire someone who already has mastered Adobe’s video applications.)

Lightroom 4 map module

One of the most visually spectacular new features in Lightroom 4 is the Map module, powered by Google Maps, that lets photographers place their photos in specific locations. It’s a thrill to navigate the world in Lightroom 4 and see exactly where your photographic journeys have taken you, but I have a feeling Adobe will have to constantly play catch-up with advances in GPS and mapping technology. 3D mapping is starting to emerge and I think tagging photos by building floor as well as GPS location would be useful. I also thought the process of matching photos up with their locations was tedious (except when the photo already had location metadata). If there’s no location data, you can drag-and-drop photos onto the map to set their location. This is probably as good of a manual system as you can get, but it’s still a slog.

Lightroom 4 boasts improved shadow and highlight recovery, and you’ll have to learn some new sliders in the Develop module to master this. In Lightroom 3, the Basic sliders in the Develop module included exposure, recovery, fill light and blacks along with brightness and contrast. (Brightness and contrast have been together in Adobe’s settings lineup since the early days of Photoshop.) In Lightroom 4, exposure and contrast are together and the other four sliders are highlights, shadows, whites and blacks. It’s confusing to consider whites and highlights two separate things (same with shadows and blacks) and there aren’t many differences between the two that I can see. Generally, the Highlights and Shadows sliders will affect darks or lights without ruining the other and will avoid excessive contrast. I still prefer working with the Tone Curve settings to pinpoint the tone regions I want to work on, though I like how fast and easy I can produce results with the Highlights and Shadows sliders. If you don’t have time to work with the curves, try the new sliders.

Lightroom 4 soft proofing

For photographers who make prints of their work, the new soft proofing in Lightroom 4 might be useful. A “soft proof” is an on-screen representation of the final printed product, and it’s often hard to get a precise soft proof since a screen and a sheet of paper are two totally different substrates. I’ve relied on hard proofs on paper since the beginning of my career. Lightroom 4’s soft proofs look like they might be helpful but I still don’t trust them completely—there are too many factors in printing that can skew the results. But what I do find really useful in Lightroom 4 are the new gamut warnings which will show regions that are too bright or too dark to display any detail. Lightroom 4 will provide not only printer gamut warnings but monitor gamut warnings too, which I’ve not seen before.

Lightroom 4 book module

Lightroom has always had a fairly robust set of output modules (Slideshow, Print and Web) but in version 4 there is a new Book module for creating photo books. I have seen photo books offered by several photo production websites but I usually like to design my own in InDesign. I wondered if Lightroom’s Book module would be easy to use as well as robust, and I was pleasantly surprised to learn there’s a balance between software-generated layouts (see the Auto Layout panel in the sidebar) and fine controls. The Cell panel lets you put white space around images on all sides or each side separately. I found the caption and type tools very intuitive—text was overlaid on images right where I wanted them to be and I didn’t need to handle text frame corners. Everything is done inside the Book module sidebar. I found one user interface element to be particularly annoying: the inability to add photo cells on my own. The pages’ photo layouts are determined by the Auto Layout presets; you can make your own presets but they still adhere to predetermined layouts. You cannot simply drag and drop new images onto the page either, unless a photo cell already exists. The only real way to tweak photo placement is to add padding to photo cells, but this isn’t a great way to do it.

Lightroom has had integrated social sharing for awhile now, but it’s been improved in Lightroom 4 in a way I didn’t really expect. If you share to comment-capable albums (a Facebook album, for example), photos’ comments will be shown in Lightroom 4’s sidebar and you can write your own there as well. Your comments will then appear on the Facebook album entry. I thought this was a really neat way to leverage Facebook’s API and integrate social comments directly into Lightroom. I also love how you can include your Facebook albums in the Publish Services panel and push photos up to it just by dragging them onto the album name.

Lightroom 4 is another quality upgrade for a quality product, and its inclusion into Adobe Creative Cloud makes it available to even more people. On the other hand, I feel Lightroom is a mature application now and some of the features are not so exciting or unique. Other mature applications, including Photoshop and Illustrator, deal with the same problem sometimes. But the improvements in spot adjustments, shadows and highlights, and photo book layout in particular make me say Lightroom 4 is an upgrade worth buying.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4
Adobe Systems
US $149 full/$79 upgrade
Included with Adobe Creative Cloud
Rating: 8/10
Buy at Amazon.com

BOOK REVIEW: Jerod Foster’s Storytellers

Storytellers cover

There are two types of photography books: the nuts-and-bolts variety with detail on apertures, lenses and lighting setups, and the artistic variety that attempts to explain the ephemeral aspects of photography like creativity, inspiration and storytelling. Storytellers by Jerod Foster is in the second category and the book contains almost 300 pages devoted to the art of photographic storytelling.

There’s lots of beautiful photography in Storytellers and I found myself enjoying the pictures as well as the writing. The photographs are not just Jerod’s either but other photographers who are profiled and interviewed in the book. Note that Jerod and several other photographers in the book are based in Texas, so there is a noticeable emphasis on Texas photography in Storytellers.

The test with any artistic photography book is to transcend the mundane aspects of photography and describe the creative photographic process in a way that rings true. Storytellers doesn’t always pass the test—it’s a fun read and I learned some things, but some of the processes Jerod describes in the book are typical things like shot selection, composition and the use of light. These are all important topics and certainly related to storytelling, but I felt that it danced around the heart of the art of storytelling.

I studied and wrote on creativity back in my college days and I’m convinced the most illuminating writing on creativity can be applied to all creative art forms and be made to “fit” with minimal changes. Storytelling techniques apply to writing and music as well as photography. While reading Storytellers, I had a hard time applying some of its lessons to those other art forms and so the lessons appealed to photographers and not always to storytellers.

Storytellers is still a very fine book and fine art photographers will certainly enjoy it. It’s well-written and contains some very nice shots. I think the book will also help photographers understand how their craft builds stories and how to hone their storytelling craft. My main complaint is the lack of focus on storytelling and overemphasis on nuts-and-bolts photography topics that are probably covered in more detail in other books.

Storytellers
Jerod Foster
Published by New Riders
US $44.99
Rating: 8/10
Buy on Amazon.com

Adobe Releases Photoshop CS6 In Public Beta

The splash screen for the Photoshop CS6 pre-release, codenamed “Superstition.”

Adobe announced today the immediate availability of Photoshop CS6 as a public beta. Photoshop is expected to be one of the primary products in Creative Suite 6 (CS6) and in the past Adobe has released other Creative Suite products in public beta. The only version of Photoshop released as a public beta until now was Photoshop CS3.

Photoshop CS6 (and presumably other CS6 applications) will be paired with an Adobe ID rather than computer hardware, thus ending the old activation/deactivation method for license management. Fouled-up activations have always been difficult for users to deal with and often keep software from running at all without a call to Adobe customer service, so to do away with activation altogether is a nice improvement.

The change that I’ve seen leaked most is Photoshop CS6’s new dark user interface. Photoshop CS6 now has more in common visually with After Effects, Premiere and other video apps than the design apps including Illustrator and InDesign. You can actually change the user interface’s color in the Preferences menu to one of four shades of gray. I have usually preferred the old light gray, but I come from a background in design and that’s what I’ve been used to. I’ve used my Adobe video applications more in the past couple years though and now I’m keeping Photoshop CS6 with the default dark backgrounds. It looks more professional and the grays don’t compete with images, though technically none of the options will give your images a color cast.

The Photoshop team has made performance improvements in recent versions (the OpenGL support in CS4 comes to mind) but Photoshop CS6’s main performance improvement is the new Adobe Mercury Graphics Engine. Photoshop CS6 uses the MGE to accelerate filters and effects including Liquify, Lighting Effects and warping effects. I’ve worked with these tools in prerelease builds of Photoshop CS6 and they work smoothly most of the time. I hope public beta users have the same experience.

Note that some of Adobe’s video applications employ a “Mercury Playback Engine” for much-improved video performance with NVIDIA CUDA video cards. This is not the same thing as the Mercury Graphics Engine, and the MGE works with a variety of video cards.

Content-Aware technology has been behind many of Photoshop’s recent jaw-dropping features, and Adobe has expanded it into two new tools in Photoshop CS6:

  • Content-Aware Patch marries Content-Aware technology with the existing Patch tool. There’s now a Patch menu in the tool’s options, and selecting “Content-Aware” will help you patch regions more accurately.
  • Content-Aware Move is similar to the Content-Aware Patch feature but it behaves like the Patch tool’s opposite. Rather than select a region and fill it with another region, the Content-Aware Move tool lets you select a region and move it to another place on the image. It works beautifully when moving objects and backgrounds to other places on the image: backgrounds become seamless, usually without any extra work required.

There are a bunch of little improvements in Photoshop CS6 as well. According to Zorana Gee, Senior Photoshop Product Manager, the newest version of Photoshop has 62% more new features than CS5 and 65 enhancements requested by users. These include:

  • Multiple layers can be selected and then locked, labeled or have their blend modes changed at the same time.
  • Layer opacity can now be set to zero by typing “00.”
  • Layer > Rasterize > Layer Style has been added to rasterize layer styles in one step. Previously, users had to create a new layer and merge the two layers together.
  • Brushes can now be as large as 5,000 pixels.
  • The Eyedropper tool can now select layers current and below, and can also ignore adjustment layers.
  • Layer effects are now rearranged in the Layer Effects menus so they match the order they are blended together.
  • Windows users can now right-click on a document tab and open a new or existing file.
  • The hexadecimal field in the Color Picker dialog box will now accept a hash mark, which is useful when copying and pasting hex color values.
  • A new menu command, Type > Paste Lorem Ipsum, will generate placeholder text.
  • The Blur Gallery, which provides a new UI for tweaking blurs and also two new panels, Blur Tools and Blur Effects, for adding bokeh and other details. Note that this only applies to the three new blur filters—Field Blur, Iris Blur and Tilt-Shift.
  • Photoshop CS6 now auto-saves files and has an auto-recovery system.

The press release is on the next page. To download Photoshop CS6, visit Adobe Labs. Macintosh users will need OS X Snow Leopard or Lion; Windows users will need Windows XP or Windows 7.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 Enters Public Beta


The alternate splash screen for Lightroom 4 with its “Sprocket” codename.

Last week, Adobe announced Photoshop Lightroom 4 and released the photo management software as a public beta available on Adobe Labs. Lightroom has enjoyed a public beta for each of its four iterations and it’s one reason the product has been popular among photographers. “Giving early customer access to new versions of Lightroom has helped our team deliver an outstanding battle-tested product that really stands up to the demands of photographers worldwide,” said Winston Hendrickson, vice president of Digital Imaging Products for Adobe.

The new features in Lightroom 4 are ready to be tried and tested, including:

  • A Map Module that includes location tagging controls and a standard map that places photos in the locations they were shot
  • Video format support for trimming and extracting frames from video clips, applying adjustments to clips and sharing video to Facebook and Flickr
  • Simplified basic adjustment controls
  • Soft proofing features in the Develop module
  • More local adjustment controls such as Noise Reduction and Moiré
  • Templates and tools for creating photo books in the new Book module
  • An email engine within Lightroom for sending mail directly from the application

I saw a quick demo and what I found most interesting were the new Map and Book modules. The Map module provides a really striking visual representation of the photographer’s journey around the world, though it’s probably a bit depressing for the user who doesn’t jet around the world very often. The bookmaking features are intriguing to me, and the Book module exports to PDF or publication at Blurb.com, an online publisher.

There are also many smaller features, including “fast load data” in DNG files for faster load times in Lightroom 4. You can also have a lossy (less than top quality) comp for fast loading. Another nice addition is soft proofing and gamut warnings for screen and print profiles. I’ll be curious to try these but I know it’s traditionally hard to get precise color management exactly right. One more note for holdouts on Windows XP: Lightroom will require Windows Vista and newer with version 4.

Adobe’s press release on the Lightroom 4 announcement is here.

BOOK REVIEW: Beautiful Photography In Vision & Voice

vision-voice-large

David duChemin‘s Vision & Voice: Refining Your Vision in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom would be just another book on Lightroom were it not for the great photography that’s inside. Most Lightroom books boast good photography but I think it’s David’s focus on exotic locations, introspective portraits and quiet moments that unify the material and make the book stand out.

I think the first four chapters are the most important in the book, because they cover the essence and distillation of vision instead of the Lightroom techniques you get in the rest of the book. David’s notion of a “vision-driven workflow” is not really anything new—intention, aesthetics and process—but I like it when authors frame old processes in new ways because it can help readers visualize and refine the rote way they approach things like photography. Other books have done this too, such as Scott Kelby’s seven-point approach to Camera Raw, but that was for photo processing and David’s workflow is for composing and creating images. David will be the first to say it’s not a paint-by-numbers method for making photos, but the exercise of quantifying the process can help improve the process.

The highlights of the book are the 20 case studies that take up the last half of Voice & Vision. These are David’s own photographs and not only do you get to see how he improved the images but also learn the circumstances of their creation—where they were shot at, what was going on at the time, and what David was thinking when he processed them. These glimpses into a real-world situation always interest me and David’s are memorable. He knows how to shoot interesting things and get the most out of them with Lightroom.

The rest of Vision & Voice focuses on Lightroom tips and techniques, and they are well-written and illustrated but do not make a comprehensive Lightroom resource like other books. This is expected since the book has a lot more going in it than just Lightroom tips. If I were buying a gift for a photographer starting out with Lightroom, a good combination would be Vision & Voice with a more comprehensive book like Martin Evening’s The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 Book: The Complete Guide for Photographers. Vision & Voice stands up very well on its own but by its nature it can’t be all things to all people. That is not a bad thing.

Vision & Voice: Refining Your Vision in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom
David duChemin
Published by New Riders
US $44.99
Rating: 10/10

BOOK REVIEW: No Easy Answers In Taking Stock

I’ve been waiting for a book like Taking Stock: Make money in microstock creating photos that sell, which focuses on selling stock photography. Some clients pay big money for photography but practically all clients who I work with are happy with spending a few dollars—or even $20—on a stock photo. Moreover, the quality of stock photography continues to improve as cameras become more advanced and amateur photographers take in training from people like Scott Kelby, whose business and training seems to focus on photography nowadays.

I haven’t read a book by Rob Sylvan until Taking Stock but I like his style. The writing isn’t particularly flashy or humorous but what Rob nails down is his insider knowledge on the stock photography market. There might be other photographers who have sold more stock photos than him, but Rob has been in the stock photo industry since its early days and understands the history as well as what has worked over time.

Considering that the book is about selling stock photography, I’m disappointed that almost half of the chapters in Taking Stock is general digital photography tips and techniques. There are many other books out on the market that will help you get a good exposure or importing photos into Photoshop Lightroom. Taking Stock is not a large book—220 pages—so these chapters cut into content specific to the stock photography field.

That content specific to stock photography is very good—it’s the kind of information that’s hard to obtain but can mean the difference between success and failure. Knowing what gets photos accepted and rejected, how to approach multiple (or single) photo sources to show your work, and knowing what an inspector will flag as unsuitable are all vital things to know.

If you’re looking to enter the stock photography field, Taking Stock is a good resource. Many serious photographers won’t find much they don’t already know in the chapters on taking good photos and managing their library, but the chapters devoted to the stock photography process are essential to having the best chance for success.

Taking Stock: Make money in microstock creating photos that sell
Rob Sylvan
Published by Peachpit Press
US $29.99
Rating: 8/10

Royalty-Free, Guarantee-Free: The Case For Warrantied Images

Experienced designers know better than to steal images from the Internet, use sample images from microstock (low-priced stock photography) Web sites without buying the full-resolution image, or use a model in a photograph without obtaining the proper release. There’s many other rules to be heeded when using creative of any kind in your work. But a new microstock provider thinks they have found one more pitfall that other stock providers don’t tell you about: the possibility that images aren’t legal before they even become available.

vivozoom-logo

Vivozoom is a microstock provider based in London who sell their images at www.vivozoom.com. The two founders, Tom Donnelly and Lawrence Gould, are former Getty Images executives who saw a need for complete guarantees in the industry. Photographers may offer their images to a stock photography providers, and the providers may do as much due diligence as possible to ensure the image is legal, but there’s no guarantee—and many license agreements say as much.

Emphasis on warranty

Gould and Donnelly saw a business opportunity and created Vivozoom to be the first microstock Web site that warranties its images. Vivozoom launched their beta Web site at the end of May and the service has been up and running for a couple months or so, and their mission is to provide microstock photography that’s guaranteed to be free from legal complications. This means all photography has been checked and proven to be unavailable anywhere else (so a purchased photo won’t show up on another provider’s Web site) and all the proper model releases have been obtained. If a photo on Vivozoom turns out to be improperly licensed or released, they offer legal defense of their customers for damages and costs up to $25,000.

In a twist, photographers who wish to sell work on Vivozoom are accepted by invitation only and vetted by a team of editors and a creative director before acceptance. The vetting procedure’s criteria is image quality, documentation and provenance. There are only a few hundred photographers contributing to Vivozoom (in comparison, Shutterstock has 60,000).

Vivozoom was unique in offering warrantied images, but two other providers have also begun offering warrantied images. In August, Getty Images announced a Web & Mobile image catalog that offers indemnification “so you don’t have to worry about copyright ownership.” And in September iStockPhoto.com began offering warranties for all images in its catalog—the only real difference is they will cover up to $10,000 in damages instead of Vivozoom’s $25,000, and it won’t protect images that are used on items for resale.

Is it necessary?

Is such a guarantee necessary? I’ve used stock photography from a variety of sources over the years and have never had a problem—the creative is safe enough. Gould concedes that there’s a wide range of protection available for stock photography and creative professionals and companies who are “higher up the food chain” gain the most benefit from such protection. Indeed, Vivozoom’s target market is creative personnel in corporations who are sensitive to the usual terms and conditions when purchasing and need the protection of a warranty.

The fact that Vivozoom is “aware of the intellectual property” when offering stock photography for sale makes it not only more palatable for corporations but also a more reassuring deal for the photographers who vend their images online. Photographer Trinette Reed, whose work is on Vivozoom, says, “As a customer I want to see professionally edited content for my project that I know has legitimate releases. I think this is very important. If you are not working with professionals, there is always a risk of not having legitimate releases and this can lead to serious legal issues down the line.”

My experience with Vivozoom

vivozoom-screen

I had the opportunity to try Vivozoom out when I purchased photography for an annual report I recently designed. It was a good experience overall but a little quirky:

  • The selection of photography was great, even though there’s only a handful of contributing photographers compared to other sources. The photography was well-shot and looked great in the final product.
  • Upon login, you are taken to Vivozoom’s homepage which has…nothing on it. Just the navigation and search functions. I like seeing some photography on the homepage of a stock photography website.
  • I needed photos of children of diverse races and age groups, and it was hard sometimes to find just the right photographs. Searches for “Hispanic teenagers” and “African American child” were ultimately successful, but I had to sort through a lot of related images before I found the most perfect matches. This is to be expected when sifting through microstock, but with Vivozoom I had to dig a little deeper.
  • Vivozoom restricts reproducing a standard image more than 250,000 times—in contrast, iStockPhoto.com allows up to 500,000 impressions. Both providers allow unlimited usage when purchased with an enhanced license.
  • Unlike many providers who let you select resolution on a per image basis, Vivozoom’s pay-as-you-go plans require users to opt for print or web resolution images. Opting for print resolution does give you access to web resolution. Designers like me who design for both print and the web will have to pay for the print resolution.
  • iStockPhoto.com lets you purchase images individually with credits. Vivozoom does have a pay-as-you-go plan for a single print resolution image ($45 with enhanced license only) but standard license plans begin with five print resolution images ($49) or 12 web resolution images ($49).

My overall impression is that Vivozoom is a well-stocked provider that makes you go through some browsing and purchasing hassles—subscribers probably will have the best experience, and that makes some sense because Vivozoom is targeting corporate customers who will pay for subscriptions. Designers like me who often purchase photos individually or in small groups will find the pay-as-you-go plans inflexible. But the quality of the work is great and my clients have been pleased.

The future

Gould and Donnelly hope to make Vivozoom a larger presence in the United States and international markets, and also develop into a provider of other media such as video. I think the subject of creative copyright and warranty is going to heat up in the next ten years, because the stock photography industry will most likely move toward offering warranties with images and other media—stories about violated copyrights flare up too often and no designer wants to be involved in one.

There will also be plenty of designers and unwitting users who filch material from the Internet. A lot of these people simply don’t know it’s illegal, but a lot know it is but find it too easy to pull graphics from their web browsers. Companies such as Google who strive to make books and videos available to everyone online only make the murky topic even murkier. “No one wants to halt the benefits that come with ease of use online,” Gould says. “But photographers and distributors deserve to get paid for their work while our customers deserve the peace of mind. In a culture where theft is euphemistically known as file sharing, how can these working professionals survive when perhaps the most underreported online crime is ignored?”

BOOK REVIEW: The DAM Book, Second Edition

dambook

Peter Krogh‘s The DAM Book: Digital Asset Management for Photographers, Second Edition is a fabulous resource: 500 pages encompassing all aspects of digital asset management (DAM) for photographers. Software products like Lightroom serve to control most aspects of DAM (and, in Lightroom’s case, publish digital photos as well) and many Lightroom books I’ve reviewed are surveys of digital asset management options. However, The DAM Book stands out because of its depth, knowledgeable author and full coverage.

Sorely needed and still relevant

Digital photography has changed radically in the last five years and a book like The DAM Book needs a new edition now and then to stay relevant. The second edition has several important changes in its content and Peter does a good job of drawing attention to revised recommendations and techniques. Digital photography has changed enough in the last few years that I would recommend buying The DAM Book even if you already own a copy of the first edition.

It’s also refreshing to note that The DAM Book has several chapters that remain timeless and rooted in the fundamentals of digital asset management. Topics like image storage, backup and validation, cataloging and data migration change very little no matter what hot gear is in the latest issue of your photo store catalog. I’m a reviewer who has a lot of stale and outdated books on his shelf, everything from two-year-old Lightroom books to Photoshop 7 Down & Dirty Tricks, and I appreciate the books that earn a place of the shelf every year.

Good visuals and writing

The DAM Book nails the three crucial elements of photography book design: good writing, good photography and good graphic design. I was pleasantly surprised that there are many diagrams in The DAM Book: file organization, photo workflows, archive systems, RAID, hard drive backup systems and more are all charted clearly and supported by Peter’s clear writing style. I referred to these diagrams often when I was developing my own backup strategy and system.

The DAM Book is a little out of the ordinary in that Peter’s photography is not emphasized in favor of prolific text and charts. This goes against the usual strategy of publishing large photos in photography books—Scott Kelby’s books often cover the majority of its pages with photos and screenshots. But I’m very happy that Peter made the writing the primary content: his photos are beautiful and he lists the keywords catalogued with each photo, but the written content is properly emphasized. And while not everyone will find his recommendations to their liking, Peter makes sure to list as many options as possible and explain the pros and cons of each one.

Conclusion

The DAM Book is a timeless resource—I’d put it on par with Dan Margulis’ Professional Photoshop for its depth, its breadth (almost 500 pages long) and thorough assessment of digital asset management techniques. This is the book I’ve used to help catalog my own digital photos, and I will be going through the book again to refine my system. It’s an excellent buy for any professional digital photographer.

The DAM Book: Digital Asset Management for Photographers, Second Edition
Peter Krogh
Published by O’Reilly
US$49.99
Rating: 10/10

BOOK REVIEW: The Hot Shoe Diaries Enlightens and Engages

hotshoediaries

Last year, “Legendary Magazine Photographer” Joe McNally published The Moment It Clicks, which was hyped as one of the greatest photography books ever published. I thought it was a great book, but not perfect—the handling of terminology bothered me, and I had hoped for more writing in a book over 250 pages. But that was in 2008, and this year Joe has published a new book, The Hot Shoe Diaries. Maybe it’s because I’ve had my head down the past few months working for my clients, but this book seems to have had less hype thrown at it—which is ironic, because I think The Hot Shoe Diaries surpasses its year-old predecessor.

More text, more stories, more enlightenment

The Moment It Clicks focuses on a relatively broad collection of photography stories and insights; The Hot Shoe Diaries focuses on lighting, and that focus really brings the book together. The first section of the book is an excellent survey of lighting equipment, settings and Joe’s own secret recipes for success in the field (look for his camera grip technique on page 40). The rest of the book presents a variety of Joe’s stories about lighting problems and solutions he’s encountered—everything from one-light jobs to assignments requiring lots of lights (up to 50!). You’ll also find a small appendix that covers some settings on the Nikon speedlights, but The Nikon Creative Lighting System by Mike Hagen is a far more comprehensive resource.

The Hot Shoe Diaries seems to have a lot more text than The Moment It Clicks, and the stories are just as compelling. I think the focus on lighting actually helped Joe bring together a more interesting collection of tales that really teach readers something great. And I think it’s interesting that there are no footnotes as there were in The Moment It Clicks—I didn’t even notice they were missing.

Something should be said about Joe’s writing style, which is a treat to read but might put off a few people. I prefer a clear, concise writing style with some humor, and sometimes I shake my head a little bit at Joe’s constant use of vernacular, pop culture references and otherwise goofy lines (“Say hello to my li’l frenn!”, “word editors who wouldn’t know a good photograph even if crawled up their zeppelin-sized pantaloons and bit them in their ample buttocks”). Writers normally avoid clichés, but in that second phrase Joe is recharging two clichés with words normally found in children’s books. Despite all this, I still think Joe’s books are fun to read without quite getting too annoying—and anyone who references The Uncanny X-Men at Photoshop World deserves a pass!

Good design, plenty of content and essential focus are what makes The Hot Shoe Diaries a must-have for photographers who use lighting beyond their camera’s pop-up flash. This book does more than give us some cool Joe McNally tales—it gives us a long glimpse into Joe’s working world, complete with camera settings, equipment recommendations and detailed lighting setups for some of his most compelling images. This is where great lighting really happens.

The Hot Shoe Diaries
Joe McNally
Published by New Riders
US$39.99
Rating: 10/10